Skip to main content

Full text of "Obituary. Carlo Emery."

See other formats

IKferown, Jr. 





On the eleventh of last May the world lost one of its 
most distinguished entomologists, Professor Carlo Emery, 
from acute uricaemia. He was born at Naples, October 
25, 1848, of Swiss- parents, who had acquired Italian citi- 
zenship. After pursuing courses in general medicine he 
decided, about 1872, to specialize in ophthalmology, but 
biological studies soon attracted him more powerfully and 
he became professor of zoology in the University of Cag- 
liari, in Sardinia. This post he held from 1878 to 1881, but 
on the death of his father he moved to Bologna, where he 
occupied the chair of. zoology in the ancient university till 
his retirement several years ago. He married an Italian 
lady and leaves' two very promising children, Lucia and 

. Professor Emery was unusually talented. He spoke and 
wrote admirably Italian, French, German, English and 
Spanish, besides possessing a reading knowledge of several 
other languages, including Russian. His great skill as a 
' ''draftsman enabled him tc enrich his monographs with many 
figures so accurate as to permit ready identification of the 
most closely related species ; and his linguistic knowledge 
enabled him to pen descriptions so concise that there is 
verv rarely any question as to the identity of the forms he 
was observing. Although he published a valuable text- 
book of general zoology (second edition, 1904), a well-known 
monograph on the singular fishes of the genus Fierasfer 
(1880) and papers on the anatomy of vipers (1873) and the 
luminescence of fire-flies (1884), the 300 papers which he 
contributed to Entomology during the past 56 years (1869- 
1925) are almost entirely devoted to the Formicida?. And 
although he was chiefly occupied with the taxonomy, morphol- 
ogy and geographical distribution of ants, he published 
several interesting papers on their habits and instincts. 
There is scarcely a country to a knowledge of whose ant- 
fauna he did not make important contributions. His work 

319 . ENTOMOLOGICAL NEWS [Dec., '25 

throughout is of the highest quality, because he \yas not 
interested primarily in securing priority in the description 
of species though he described many hundreds of them 
but in monographic revision of groups of species or whole 
faunas and a precise definition of the known forms, their 
relationships and distribution. He was exceedingly con- 
servative in creating genera and species and made great 
use of subgenera, subspecies and varieties as provisional 
categories. His long and intricate taxonomic studies cul- 
minated in the magnificent volumes on the Formicidse in 

Wvtsman's "Genera Insectorurh." which contain a -list of 

^ i 

all the known species, subspecies and varieties of ants and 
their genera, with many new and profound considerations 
on their natural grouping in tribes and subfamilies. No 
entomologist of the past or present generation has done 
such a large amount of very accurate taxonomic work and 
work so. worthy of being taken as a model by younger 
men, especially in' the United States, and no active ento- 
mologist has created fewer synonyms or introduced less 
confusion into x the science. i 

Although I owe a great deal 1 , to Professor Emery, with 
whom I have corresponded since 1899, and who has helped 
me on innumerable occasions with his very expert opinion, 
as he has helped every living <myrmecologist, I unfortu- 
nately had no opportunity to meet him and have had to 
draw many of the facts in regard to his life from a brief 
necrologue by Professor Forel (Bull. Ann. Soc. Ent. Belg. 
65, 1925, p. 198-199). Both of these 1 eminent entomologists 
were born in the same year and both, building 'on the secure 
foundations laid by Gustav Mayr, cooperated in enormously 
extending and deepening our knowledge of the ant faunas 
of all parts of the world and in; encouraging younger men 
to take up the study of these fascinating insects. In the 
following paragraph Professor Forel giyesi some more in- 
timately personal details in regard to a singular parallelism 
between his life and that of Professor Emery: 

"1 made his acquaintance about 1871 at the Chateau de 


Prilly, near Lausanne, which his father still owned, though 
it has since been sold. There we learned that as children 
we had both observed the ants, he at Prilly and I at Lonay 
or at Vaux sur Merges, that is separated only by a distance 
of less than eight kilometers, without suspecting each other's 
existence or our mutual myrmecological predilections. But 
the parallelism of our lives did not end there. C: Emery 
had scarcely been made professor at Cagliari when in 1879 
1 was elected professor at Zurich. Both 'of us employed 
our days and weeks of vacation in studying our little friends, 
the ants, he in Italy mainly, I sometimes on long voyages. 
In 1906, while sojourning in Switzerland, at Bois-Bougy 
sur Rolle, he was suddenly prostrated by a very severe 
apoplectic stroke. I was called and thought he was lost 
and my son aided his wife in caring for him under the 
supervision of a physician at Rolle. But although he was 
aphasic and remained paralyzed on the right side,. ,he not 
only learned to write with his left hand, but succeeded a 
year later in performing experiments on ants, describing 
and even drawing them (with his left hand) with indom- 
itable perseverance and all his former sagacity. And then 
I myself, in 1912, was prostrated by an attack which para- 
lyzed my right arm and vocal organs. After that I imitated 
Emery in all respects, except in my incapacity to draw 
with my left hand. Since that time our correspondence has 
been left-handed. In Italy, C. Emery attracted many stu- 
dents who will continue his work. As I learn today, he 
had ordered before his death that there should be no 
funeral, no religious intervention, no discourse, no music, 
no flowers, except those given by his family. It is odd 
that, without knowing of this, I had long ago made the 
same arrangements in regard to myself."